Texas-born singer/songwriter and musician Katy Rea left Texas 12 years ago for the promise and opportunity of New York. Rea auditioned for several television parts and stage plays, occasionally earning a role in someone else’s story, basking momentarily in the flickering glow of rare, unsteady and infrequent success. However, songwriting was her true love and solace, and for her, the only way she could reliably self-soothe.
For years, she floated around the city as if in a daze and found herself drawn to those, who couldn’t love well. After closing bar shifts, she’d return home to write and strum along to the voices and sirens outside, often lulling herself to sleep.
One day during a rehearsal, Rea’s drummer and friend Joshua Jaeger, audibly observed that she’d be happier without her habits, but warned that it would take courage to overcome them. She knew in her heart that Jaeger had been right, so two weeks before recording her full-length debut The Urge That Saves You, Rea quit drinking.
Slated for a November 11, 2022 release, The Urge That Saves You was recorded at Figure 8 Recording entirely live, including main vocals, all in one go. It was during the album’s recording sessions that Rea realized, for the first time with complete certainty that making music was exactly what she needed — and should — be doing.
Sonically, the album is reportedly hook-driven empath rock that splits off into cinematic, dark psychedelia in a seamless and effortless fashion. Her backing band, which features members, who have played with Angel Olsen, Fleet Foxes, Widowspeak and a lengthy list of others play with a touching restraint and makes for a collection of Rea calls “premonitions, prayer and warnings.”
The album’s songs reflect Rea’s life journey in a way that’s not exactly autobiographical and isn’t always obvious. As a songwriter, Rea prefers to use characters and metaphors in her stories. But they’re rooted in a gritty, psychological realism that feels novelistic.
During quarantine, the Texas-born, New York-based artist took it upon herself to learn how to engineer and mix her own album after an inspiring phone call with musician and producer Sam Evian, who urged to make the work her own in every way that she could. She spent countless hours at Phil Weinrobe’s Rivington 66 overdubbing and mixing. Learning to mix wasn’t without difficulty. At times, Rea felt like she was learning a different language. Luckily, she had engineers like Spencer Murphy, Andrew Forman and others around to answer questions and help along the way.
The post-production process was just as rewarding as the recording sessions because Rea succeeded in making the album sound exactly how she wanted it to, while also proving to herself that she was more than capable of taking the reins. So it’s understandable that Rea celebrates the album’s completion with a well-earned pride. She’s also inspired to continue engineering and producing future albums on her own.
The Urge That Saves You‘s latest single, the “Lord Try” is centered around a lush and expansive arrangement consisting of alternating sparse, brooding passages with lightly strummed guitar, supple and propulsive bass lines and gently padded drumming and stormier passages with swirling, reverb-drenched guitar and bursts of mournful trumpet from Lessie Vonner. The song’s two distinct sections are held together by Rea’s achingly yearning delivery. The entire song evokes the seemingly inescapable and lingering ghosts of regrets, old selves, bad memories of bad people and bad places.
“Kaitlin and I were aiming to capture subtle moments of temptation that often creep up in the still, quiet moments of life,” Katy Rea explains. “Growing up I spent a lot of time alone, daydreaming, fantasizing the mundane away. And as a girl who grew up in the church everything became sweet or evil, right or wrong. Natural desires felt like something bad within me, but eventually I started to become friendly with close calls and cheap thrills. I put myself in dangerous places and learned my strength through escaping them. Eating a flower with thorns, swimming in murky waters, wearing little clothing knowing maybe the neighbor would see, was just the start of some of this flirtation with ‘darkness’ I knew as a girl. The grassy landscape reminded me of Texas, the church down the road, and the neighbors shaking their heads through their windows.”